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THE BONE WITCH

From the Bone Witch series , Vol. 1

A promising premise, a flawed execution, and a sense that the real story won’t develop until Book 2: somehow both...

Something of a high-fantasy Memoirs of a Geisha, Chupeco’s latest excels in originality.

The asha are known for performing, fighting, and magic; beautiful, brown-skinned Tea is taken from her provincial village to Kion to begin training as a dark (in magic) asha when she accidentally raises her dead brother. Chapters detailing young Tea’s early training through her debut as an asha intercut with 17-year-old Tea on a lonely beach raising monsters and planning war, relating her past to a nameless bard. The level of detail is astounding, confusing, but nevertheless fascinating; politics both local (the brief backmatter is a bit of a guide) and magical (the origin tale of the Faceless and heartsglass, introduced in the prologue, finally appears at the three-quarter mark) permeate everything. Multiple characters, including a dead brother and a handsome prince, surround stubborn, headstrong Tea as she finds herself implicated in events she doesn’t understand; the interstitial chapters make it clear that learning more will not make things better. These also slow the pace; they force an artificial sense of urgency in an otherwise slow, sensory journey and hijack the flow of Tea’s adventures. Chupeco is a writer to watch who deserves props for the breadth of her story, but she doesn’t entirely succeed here.

A promising premise, a flawed execution, and a sense that the real story won’t develop until Book 2: somehow both exhilarating and disappointing. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3582-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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